My Experience In The Word Of Faith Movement Pt. 7-Watchman Nee,Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis

Posted: December 6, 2013 in Theology
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Please catch up on this series, if this is new to you. It might take a while. Hopefully, you will find it helpful. Here are the links:

Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt 5, Pt. 6

When we left off last time, we were discussing the influences on Watchman Nee. I am lingering on Rev. Nee because of his influence on my own theology, in my earlier Christian walk. Some of it has been beneficial, some of it has not been helpful at all.

I discussed the influence of The missionary Miss Barber and Roman Catholic mysticism on Rev. Nee.

Now we will turn to other influences.

I failed to mention in my critique of the mysticism connections to include a couple of 19th and 20th century writers that affected Rev. Nee.

Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis

Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis (1861-1927) was one such influence.

“Born on February 28th, in South Wales, Jessie was brought up in the lap of the religious surroundings of Calvinistic Methodism. Her grandfather was a preacher well known for emphasizing the building up of the believer in spiritual walk and life. It was also said, he was “the most metaphysical preacher of his day.”2

“Admittedly she owed a great deal to the books of Madame Guyon, “as having showed her the path to life ‘in God.'” Indeed! Her first response after receiving and understanding the vision and way of the Cross, and dying to self, was not an uncommon one: “No I will not go that path.” But after a brief struggle, she realized, it was the only way into the deeper spiritual life and unbroken communion with the Lord.

In her day, the “message of the Cross” was rarely preached; except in its first application to the forgiveness of sins through the Blood of the Lamb. The half-forgotten truth God ordained her to proclaim was “the Cross that breaks the power of cancelled sin.” This only occurs as the believer learns to identify with Christ, in His death to sin and the world. In learning to be “crucified with Christ,” the believer is led into a fellowship with Christ that alone enables to obey the Lord’s injunction, “take up the cross and follow Me.” It is a conformity in likeness to the Lamb.”3Madam Guyon

Notice the reference to Madame Guyon. Pay careful attention to the reference regarding a deeper spiritual life. That will become important when we discuss the Keswick movement. The main thing I want to demonstrate is the link to Roman Catholic mysticism.

Although the “Cross” is emphasized with the Higher Life advocates, the Sanctifying effects of union with Christ is stressed almost to the exclusion of the Justifying effects and the forgiveness of sins. I have a real problem with that. It is also common among Classic Wesleyans and Pentecostals to over-emphasize the more subjective aspects of Sanctification than the objective work of Christ in Justification.

Jessie Penn-Lewis had a very complex view of the Christian life. I am including a lengthy quote of Mrs. Penn-Lewis. This quote comes in an article written by Rev. Nee titled How To walk In The Spirit.

The aggressive warfare against the powers of darkness is essentially a spirit conflict, and the “natural man” knows nothing about it. It is to be understood only by spiritual men and women, hence the importance of knowing what is the meaning of the term “spiritual,” and how to walk in the spirit. We have put a capital S on the word spirit in the New Testament, where often it reads with a small s, or we have done that in the mind, by reading in the large S—referring to the Holy Spirit—in places where there should be a small s. The large S so read in by the majority of us, has hidden the fact that we have a human spirit, which is the organ for the Holy Spirit, and the place where the Holy Spirit dwells. (See “The Place of the Indwelling Spirit,” in May Overcomer.) In the shrine of that spirit comes all His divine light, and leading. Not having understood clearly about the human spirit, we have not known how to co-operate with the Holy Spirit, and when He has come into our spirits, we have thought everything He had to say to us, must be given to the mind, with the result that we have mainly walked “after the soul,” and not “after the spirit.”1

Trichotomy

bodysoulspiritOne of the problems with Rev. Nee, and many of his influences and contemporaries, including Rev. Finis Dake (mentioned in an earlier post), is the issue of Trichotomy. This would be the belief that man is tripartite, consisting of a distinct spirit, soul, and body, via 1TH 5:23, and He 4:12. I don’t have the time to go into the long history of the argument between a dichotomous view of man, against a trichotomous anthropology. What I will emphasize is Rev. Nee’s insistence that a trichotomous view is necessarily salvific.

It is an issue of supreme importance for it affects tremendously the spiritual life of a believer.”4 “To fail to distinguish between spirit and soul is fatal to spiritual maturity.”5

This is a departure from most orthodox Christian writers. Admittedly, many writers (from the AnteNicene Fathers to Calvinists) have taken a trichotomous view of man, but none have claimed it to have been necessary for salvation. This should raise a few eyebrows.

This trichotomous view occupies the very first chapter in his book The Spiritual Man.

Rev. Nee’s exposition of the Trichotomy of man is very systematic and detailed. He goes to great lengths in order to prove that man’s three parts include:

1. The spirit, which includes conscience, intuition, and fellowship (communion with the Holy Spirit).

2. The soul, which includes the mind, will, and emotions.

3. The body, which is self-explanatory.

He uses a lot of Scripture, and is very convincing. He may be correct. However, it’s his emphasis on the intuition that becomes troubling.

The spirit lies beyond man’s self-consciousness and above his sensibility. Here man communicates with God.”6 “The revelations of God and all the movements of the Holy Spirit are known to the believer through his intuition.”7 “God is not apprehended by our thoughts, feelings or intentions, for He can only be known directly in our spirits.”8

Extra-Biblical Revelation 

You can begin to understand my concern about mysticism. Here we have a systematic theology endorsing extra-Biblical Revelation. To Rev. Nee, (and subsequently and concurrently, Pentecostals and Charismatics), the boring doctrinal stuff- you know, the ordinary means of receiving Biblical illumination (hearing the Word preached, personal Bible study, reading solid Christian writers, catechism, etc.), are supplanted by personal communication in the intuition.

“If the revelations of God and the work of the Holy Spirit can only be known through his intuition, one’s personal insight is exalted above the statements of Scripture. (Dictionary definition of intuition: “knowledge or conviction gained by intuition. The power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.”) Such a conclusion is both unbiblical and dangerous.”9

Gnosticism

One of the early threats to Christianity was Gnosticism. At one time it was thought to have predated Christianity, but recent scholarship indicates it arose out of Jewish mysticism, as a perversion of Christianity. The basic beliefs of Gnostics were:

1. Salvation came to those “in the know”, those with the secret gnosis (Gk. word for knowledge). It was accessed through intuition by the mystery religions through divine revelation.

2. Dualism- spirit is good, flesh or matter is bad. Spirit cannot come into contact with flesh. It needs an intermediary.

3. Jesus either only appeared to have a body, or was simply a man.

4. There is a lower class of “gods”, called demiurge a by Gnostics.

We will look more closely at the WOF similarities to Gnosticism later. Right now I want to focus on point no. 1.

“Nee’s form of Gnosticism comes through the development of a rather complicated system, with its own specific terminology,

English: A lion-faced deity found on a Gnostic...

English: A lion-faced deity found on a Gnostic gem in Bernard de Montfaucon’s L’antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

which means that the uninitiated cannot really grasp the “deep teachings” of God. The focus on the intuition as the real means of grasping truth, rather than through the specifics (including the wording) of Scripture is a definite type of Gnosticism, complete with its arrogance and exclusivity (regardless of intentions to the contrary). His claims that the conscience is based on one’s intuition opens wide the door for being directed by a supposed inner voice from God rather than taking God’s written Word as the true basis of conscience training. The conscience is only as accurate as the training upon which it is based. development of a rather complicated system, with its own specific terminology, which means that the uninitiated cannot really grasp the “deep teachings” of God. The focus on the intuition as the real means of grasping truth, rather than through the specifics (including the wording) of Scripture is a definite type of Gnosticism, complete with its arrogance and exclusivity (regardless of intentions to the contrary). His claims that the conscience is based on one’s intuition opens wide the door for being directed by a supposed inner voice from God rather than taking God’s written Word as the true basis of conscience training. The conscience is only as accurate as the training upon which it is based.”10

It’s this inner voice that runs counter to the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura. It is a very dangerous to believe we can access a mystical source of information independent of the ordinary means.

1. Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 01: The Christian Life and Warfare, Chapter 15, Section 1
2. http://www.lighthouselibrary.com/read.php?sel=3134&searchfor=%7C%7C&type=&what=
3. Ibid
4. Nee, Watchman. The Spiritual Man in Three Volumes. New York: Christian Fellowship Ed., 1977. Print, pg. 22.
5. Ibid, pg. 22.
6. Ibid, pg. 29.
7. Ibid, pg. 32.
8. Ibid, pg. 32.
9. Gordon Ferguson, “Watchman Nee On Soul And Spirit ,” douglasjacoby.com, Douglas Jacoby, http://www.douglasjacoby.com/watchman-nee-on-soul-spirit-by-gordon-ferguson/ (accessed 11/12/2013).
10. Ibid

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Comments
  1. […] My Experience In The Word Of Faith Pt. 7-Watchman Nee,Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis (christianreasons.com) Pay careful attention to the reference regarding a deeper spiritual life. That will become important when we discuss the Keswick movement. The main thing I want to demonstrate is the link to Roman Catholic mysticism.Although the “Cross” is emphasized with the Higher Life advocates, the Sanctifying effects of union with Christ is stressed almost to the exclusion of the Justifying effects and the forgiveness of sins. I have a real problem with that. It is also common among Classic Wesleyans and Pentecostals to over-emphasize the more subjective aspects of Sanctification than the objective work of Christ in Justification. + The focus on the intuition as the real means of grasping truth, rather than through the specifics (including the wording) of Scripture is a definite type of Gnosticism, complete with its arrogance and exclusivity (regardless of intentions to the contrary). His claims that the conscience is based on one’s intuition opens wide the door for being directed by a supposed inner voice from God rather than taking God’s written Word as the true basis of conscience training. The conscience is only as accurate as the training upon which it is based. development of a rather complicated system, with its own specific terminology, which means that the uninitiated cannot really grasp the “deep teachings” of God. The focus on the intuition as the real means of grasping truth, rather than through the specifics (including the wording) of Scripture is a definite type of Gnosticism, complete with its arrogance and exclusivity (regardless of intentions to the contrary). + […]

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