Archive for November, 2013

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Read my previous posts in this series to catch up. See Pt.1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt. 5.

During the summer of 1982, I had the strange occurrence of finding 2 different books by a single author, in the attics of 2 different houses. My family was a family of carpenters. My Grandad Jenkins was a carpenter (my dad’s father-in-law), my dad was a carpenter, and my brother was a carpenter.

It never fails, if you do remodeling or homebuilding, that adding insulation falls in the dog days of summer. That means 130+ deg. Temps here in the south. While cleaning out 2 different attics, I found Against the Tide by Angus I. Kinnear, and Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Née.

Watchman Nee

If you are not familiar with Watchman Née, I will give a brief bio. :

“Watchman Nee became a Christian in mainland China in 1920 at the age of seventeen and began writing in the same year. Throughout the nearly thirty years of his ministry, Watchman Nee was clearly manifested as a unique gift from the Lord to His Body for His move in this age. In 1952 he was imprisoned for his faith; he remained in prison until his death in 1972. His words remain an abundant source of spiritual revelation and supply to Christians throughout the world. For more details concerning Watchman Nee, please see http://www.watchmannee.org.” 1

“Watchman Nee was born in 1903 in Swatow, China as an answer to his mother’s prayer. Having already borne two daughters, she prayed that if God should give her a son, she would give him back to God. As the boy grew up, he showed every sign of promise except he had no interest in things spiritual. It was not till he was seventeen years of age that he was met by the Lord. He knew at that time that he must accept Christ Jesus as his Savior, yet he struggled over the necessity of surrendering his life to the Lord. The love of Christ finally overwhelmed him and he capitulated to Christ. This was on April 29, 1920. He had such a love for the Word of God that he studied it almost incessantly, so within a very short period he had read the whole Bible several times. He began to witness for Christ to his school mates and soon earned the nickname of “the preacher”. In searching the Scripture, he (with a few other believers) discovered ‘the simplicity and purity that is towards Christ.’ He determined to follow the Word of God explicitly and nothing but the Word.

In 1927 he began his life work in Shanghai, where he was able to practice the vision which the Lord had shown him in the Word. He understood that the eternal purpose of God is Christ and His Church. Through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit and the faithful ministry of this servant of God, this testimony spread over the vast land of China.

In 1949 the Communists took over China. Knowing what would be waiting for him back home, he nonetheless felt strongly his responsibility toward God and His Church. So he returned to China from Hong Kong in 1950. In April of 1952 he was seized and put in prison. He was later falsely accused as a master spy and was sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment. In prison he was not allowed to do anything but what was assigned him by prison authority. At the expiration of his sentence term, he was not released, and the news arrived quickly that he died faithful to the Lord.” 2

Painful

My references above are from sympathetic sources. This particular part of the series will probably be the hardest for me. Separating the wheat of a Watchman Née from his chaff has been painful. I truly love this man, and to write anything negative about his doctrine is not an easy task for me.

I learned early in my Christian walk to be a reader. Early on, I read everything I could get my hands on. Unfortunately for me, my interests gravitated towards those who supported my Faith teaching worldview. Watchman Née became an obsession for me. I eventually bought every book I could find.

The Three Ladders

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It has been in my exposure to the Reformers that I learned the broken ladders that the little theologians of glory in us love to use to get to God.

Here is how most religions work: Heaven and God are far away, so we must find ways to ascend to heaven. Like the old African American spiritual says:

We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
Soldiers of the cross.

Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher,
Soldiers of the cross.

That all sounds great if you’re the typical American. We love our independence and pragmatism, don’t we?

It was the Lutheran theologian Adolph Koberle who distilled man’s attempts to ascend to God .3 He identified these three ladders as:

A. Moralism- The ladder of the will. We grab ourselves by the bootstraps, and try to work our way into God’s good graces. If you’ve ever asked or have been asked the Evangelism Explosion question “why would God allow you into heaven?”, then you have faced the question of moralism. Usually the response is “well, I’ve been a good person. I have done ________ “(you fill in the blank). How this works itself out in the Faith movement is trying to earn God’s Favor by positive confession and believing before seeing (specifically in healing or financial blessing). I’ll cover this more thoroughly in another post.

B. Mysticism- This is the ladder of the emotions. We seek for God internally through emotional or mystical experiences. We become preoccupied with our own spirituality. This is where Watchman Née comes in.

C. Speculation (Rationalism)- This is the ladder of the mind. If we can just get the perfect knowledge, that missing piece of information, then we can please God, and climb up that broken ladder. This Gnostic, and noxious idea fits in perfectly with the Word of Faith “Revelation Knowledge” teaching promoted by men like Kenneth Copeland. We will deal with this ladder later in the series.

Getting back to Rev. Née, I believe he got the Gospel right. He had a basic theology of Salvation by Grace through Faith. In The Normal Christian Life, (probably one of his more popular titles), Nee writes: “Righteousness, the forgiveness of our sins, and peace with God are all ours by faith, and without faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ none can possess them.” His whole exposition on the Blood of Christ in this book is very orthodox, and insightful. As far as it goes, it’s theologically sound.

Mysticism

There are several streams of influences present in Rev. Nee’s theology when it comes to sanctification. One major stream is mysticism. This can be seen in his Preface to The Spiritual Man, Vol. 1:

“This book puts particular emphasis on spiritual reality. Hence, what is covered in each volume can all be attested in experience; nothing is there as an empty word.” 4

“The whole book covers a wide scope; every question concerning the spiritual life that the believers want to know but cannot answer is explained here. For example, difficult matters such as hearing God’s voice and understanding God’s will are all clearly explained. After reading this book, all major spiritual problems will be fully resolved.”5

Notice the emphasis on experience, hearing God’s voice, and understanding God’s will. All of this is standard fare for the dedicated theologian of glory. It’s an obsession with one’s spiritual life. Yet, later in the same Preface, Rev. Nee writes:

“Among the spiritually seeking believers there is always the danger of excessive subjectivity concerning one’s own spiritual experience. This is not healthy, for self-examination, the analyzing of oneself, is a means of cultivating the self-life and fills a person’s mind with vain thoughts.”6

The problem is that most of Née’s writings in The Spiritual Man, by their nature, encourage this kind of self-introspection. That is the nature of mysticism and spiritual perfectionism.

Some of the mystical influences on Rev. Nee can be deduced by references he makes.

Margaret E. Barber

One of the primary influences was a lady named Margaret E. Barber. Here is a bio. Of Miss Barber. I include an extended quote showing her influence:

“Once I invited a doctor of theology to Miss Barber’s meeting and asked that he be given the opportunity to speak, and I translated for him. After the message I asked Miss Barber, “How was it?” She said, “It was sad!” I asked her why, and she pointed to a door that was chained shut and said, “Something good, but not moving.” I was again upset by her remark. I told another brother, “This man has spoken only once. Can she possibly know all about him?” But today I know what she was talking about. Everything depends on life. If there is no life, all we have is death.

The church does not need good doctrines, good theology, or wonderful expositions. The church needs life, the resurrection life of Christ. No doctrine, idea, theology, or exposition can replace the life of Christ. Only the life of Christ and that which issues from it will prevail against the gates of Hades. Everything else is just disguised forms of death and cannot withstand the attacks of Satan. May the Lord be merciful to us, and may He keep us from touching death or bringing death into the church. May God fill the church with life, and may Satan find no opening to attack the church.”7

You can see Miss Barber’s influence by judging preaching by some sort of internalized “inner light”. There is a definite anti-intellectual slant that very much anticipates Postmodernism, and Emergent Christianity of our own day. You can see the appeal to WOF’ers; Direct Divine revelation; Very mystical.

 Roman Catholic Mystics

This Miss Barber introduced Rev. Nee to the Keswick Movement, Jessie Penn-Lewis, and the Roman Catholic mystics Madame Guyon and Fenelon. First, let’s talk about the Roman Catholic mystics.

“At the same time there was a new discovery within the Catholic Church. A group of spiritual people were raised up by the Lord. TheMadam Guyon most spiritual one among them was Miguel de Molinos, who was born in 1640 and died in 1697. He wrote a book called Spiritual Guide which taught men the way to deny themselves and die with the Lord. This book affected many people at that time. One of his contemporaries was Madame Guyon. She was born in 1648 and died in 1717. She was even more knowledgeable in the matters of the union with God’s will and the denial of the self. Her autobiography is a very good spiritual book.

In addition there was Father Fenelon who was a bishop at that time. He was very willing to suffer for the Lord, and he worked together with Madame Guyon. Through these men and women, God released many spiritual messages. At that time men and women with the deepest experience of spiritual life were found in the Catholic Church. Protestantism was only paying attention to the doctrine of justification by faith.”8

Here is a quote from Madame Guyon:

“All that is of your doing, all that comes from your life-even your most exalted prayer-must first be destroyed before union can come about. All the prayers that proceed from your mind are merely preparations for bringing you to a passive state; any and all active contemplation on your part is also just preparation for bringing you to a passive state. They are preparations. They are not the end. They are a way to the end. The end is union with God!”9

Please convince me this is not dangerously close to the eastern practice of altered-state consciousness meditation; I dare ye…

For a good overview of Madame Guyon, go here.

This post is getting long, so I will continue later.

1. http://www.amazon.com/Watchman-Nee/e/B00COAA964
2. http://www.c-f-p.com/category_s/1825.htm
3. For a good exposition of Koberle’s three ladders, see Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller’s sermon at http://www.hope-aurora.org/pages/Pent192005.html&friendly=1
4. http://www.ministrybooks.org/index.cfm
5. Ibid.
6. http://www.ministrybooks.org/books.cfm?n
7. Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 44: Conferences, Messages, and Fellowship (4), Chapter 30, Section 1
8. Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 11: The Present Testimony (4), Chapter 15, Section 2
9. Madame Guyon, Experiencing Union with God Through Inner Prayers

simul iustus et peccator,

Sir Eric of Confusedland

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It’s never a good idea to watch a History Channel piece on Christianity or the Bible without your apologetics glasses on. They can blind you to the truth with their dazzling presentation. They are usually strong on fabrication, and short on fact. Viewer beware.

  • “As another example, Elaine Pagels declares, “We had Christianity for three-hundred years before we had a New Testament.”  But, this is only partially true at best, and downright misleading at worst.  Sure, the edges of the canon were not solidified until probably the fourth century, but the core of the canon around 22 out of 27 books was fairly well-established by the mid/late second century. Irenaeus, for example, was keen to use these books and to use them as Scripture.  On a functional level, he did in fact have a New Testament.

 

  • Incredibly, this documentary then trots out the Constantine-made-the-Bible argument, implying that he used his political power to makes sure the right stories were chosen.  However, this absolutely zero evidence that Constantine had any influence/control over the canon of Scripture.  This is more of a Dan Brown-Da Vinci Code style argument, than a historical one.

 

  • Mention is made of the long ending of Mark 16:9-20 as evidence that Christians made up the resurrection because of Mark’s shorter ending.  But, the documentary shows no awareness that there is good evidence that the long ending of Mark is actually drawing upon resurrection accounts in the other three gospels (see Kelhoffer’s works), thus showing that the idea of Jesus’ resurrection was not made up due to Mark’s truncated ending.

via Bible Secrets Revealed? A Response to the New History Channel Series Part 1 | Canon Fodder.

Remember that most of the claims in this documentary are simply “pimped up” versions of the tired old arguments of old -line Christian Liberalism. As Chris Rosebrough put it on an episode of Fighting For The Faith, it’s like arguing for stricter ship-building standards today by bringing up the sinking of the Titanic. The evidence is a little old. So are the arguments slickly produced in this documentary. They have all been thoroughly dealt with by serious Evangelical scholars decades ago. Nothing to see here…move along home.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric the stuffed turkey
Gobble-gobble

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“3. To be more interested in extraordinary gifts of lesser worth than in ordinary ones of greater value; to be more absorbed in seeking one’s own spiritual enrichment than in seeking the edifying of the church; and to have one’s attention centred on the Holy Spirit, whereas the Spirit himself is concerned to centre our attention on Jesus Christ—these traits are sure signs of ‘enthusiasm’ wherever they are found, even in those whom seem most saintly.”

via “How John Owen Might Have Responded to the Modern Charismatic Movement” http://feedly.com/k/1htY3XW

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric

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“As C.S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

So even those who scream that there is no God also have the need to discover something more than a life of mere materialism. Even they seek to transcend the mundane world they find themselves in. While shaking their fists at God, they give the game away by imitating religion.”

via Our Atheist Churches » Bill Muehlenberg’s CultureWatch.

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Think Mcfly, think!

“I’ve seen some atheists rush straight to that last option: that Christians are not reasonable people. I keep hearing “thinking Christian is an oxymoron.” But that’s not a reasonable charge to make, unless the person making it thinks Blaise Pascal, James Clark Maxwell, Galileo Galilei, Michael Faraday, William Wilberforce, St. Patrick, and many others like them were unthinking, unreasoning persons: which is obviously wrong.”- Tom Gilson

via Hebrews 11:1 and Faith: Atheists Pretending To Know What They Don’t Know

photo_christian_marriage“But therein lays the problem: The church’s theology on marriage, while certainly ecclesiastical, isn’t sectarian. Marriage leads one outside the walls of the church and into the public square because marriage, by design, reveals a certain cosmology about our essence as being made male and female. Marriage has an innately public purpose by bringing together the two halves of humanity. If you embrace man as man and woman as woman, you might be on the losing end of a culture war over marriage, but you’ll be on the side of truth when the dust settles about human nature.”

via Should the Church ‘Get Out of the Marriage Business’? – The Gospel Coalition Blog.

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“This year, as alluded to several official statements noted above, the anniversary of the Edict of Milan comes at a time when the Christian world (i.e., the Christian population of the world, Christian nations have passed into history) is struggling to maintain the integrity of Christian life against the Enlightenment and its consequences. The hard persecutions of the French Revolution and the much more ominous and overwhelming threat of communism seemed to have been decisively overcome in 1989. But the Enlightenment’s de-Christianization has returned in the attempt by secularists to legally eradicate religion from public life, and to legally require acceptance of the sexual revolution in general and homosexuality in particular. In a wide ranging attack affecting numerous areas of the lives of the Christian citizens of western societies, from the right to wear religious dress or symbols in public, to the right to educate and discipline children in line with their parent’s beliefs and convictions, to the legal requirement to provide goods and services that facilitate homosexuality as part of civil rights law, to the right of religious organizations to hire and fire employees by their own religious standards, Christian life is under grave threat in much of the West, and ironically, mostly in those parts that never knew communist rule.”

Via Juicy Ecumenism

Simul iustus et peccator,

Eric